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The government’s appeal against former PLP Senator Frank Smith opened  in the Court of Appeal yesterday  with the Crown listing six grounds why the case should be sent back to the Magistrate’s Court and heard by another Magistrate.

The Crown’s lead Attorney in the matter, Director of  Public Prosecutions, Garvin Gaskins  suggested Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt took extraneous matters into account in her ruling that led to the acquittal of former Public Hospitals Authority Chairman Frank Smith back in February.

At the time, the Chief Magistrate determined that the respondent – Magic Touch Cleaning Company owner Barbara Hanna – was dishonest in some instances, specifically when it best suited her, which made her evidence inconclusive.

Refuting this, Mr. Gaskins argued otherwise, adding that the one point Hanna maintained is that she had to pay Smith $5,000 monthly for being awarded the cleaning contract of the Critical Care Block at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

Mr. Gaskins also took issue with the Chief Magistrate’s decision that Hanna was evasive regarding her relationship with the former PHA Chairman, adding that it was quite difficult to comprehend, considering she had received two loans from him. 

The Crown argued that Mrs. Ferguson- Pratt’s point was not proper, as taking into account the relationship between Hanna and Smith exceeded her lawful function.

As for the Chief Magistrate finding that Hanna told Smith to be careful, they are out to get you, the DPP charged that this was inconsistent as there are a plethora of reasons why the statement was made and that ‘they’ was never identified.

He added that it did not point to being any cabinet minister or police officer.

As this was one of the bases of the Chief Magistrate’s findings, Mr. Gaskins said it demonstrated danger and an irregularity in Pratt’s decision.

Court of Appeal Justice Maureen Crane-Scott questioned  Mr. Gaskins on if a bank slip was presented in the evidence to prove that money was being taken from Hanna’s account monthly to pay Smith, noting that this was what  botched the Crown’s case, to that he said yes.

At the end of her ruling Mrs. Ferguson- Pratt said there wasn’t a scintilla of evidence to suggest Smith extorted Hanna.

To that Gaskins said there was evidence along with evidence that the two met.

He  pointed out that the Magistrate’s comments regarding Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands and National Security Minister Marvin Dames’ conduct as public officers were wholly inappropriate.

Arguing for the defense, Jamaican attorney Keith Knight QC said the Chief Magistrate had every right to take all matters into consideration when coming to her findings,  as she had to fulfill the role as judge and jury.

He added that no such complaint can be made that the magistrate went too far in her deliberation,  because she had to preside over both the law and the facts in the case.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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